SEO

A Manager’s Guide to SEO by a Toronto SEO Provider

September 3, 2023

Are you sick of getting poorly written cold emails trying to sell you SEO without giving you any real, useful information about how it works or even… how your business could actually benefit from it?  So are we!  And yes, we DO get those emails even as an SEO provider.  

Those emails are so blandly common partially because of how rapidly SEO rose to prominence.  It went from being relatively unknown to indispensable for modern businesses so quickly that amongst the wave of companies fighting for a piece of the new market, many did so with an approach rooted in opportunism rather than professionalism.  This problem is compounded by the fact that, despite its overall importance being undeniable, SEO can also be one of the hardest initiatives to properly track and maintain accountability for.

All this oversaturation of low-quality SEO providers is part of what led us to offer those services ourselves—we had the industry experience, we had seen it done badly, and we knew we could do it a lot better.  

So this is for all the managers out there who are curious, skeptical, or intrigued by SEO.  If you’re still wondering what you’re getting into by buying SEO services, or more importantly, how they fit into your business strategy, this will point you in the right direction.

What is SEO and why is it useful?

SEO is the art and science of building websites that attract more of the right visitors, whether you’re trying to build buzz with high volume, but unfocused traffic, or precisely target a small, but crucial niche audience.  It doesn’t fall neatly into marketing or development because it combines the two—truly skillful SEO requires a holistic understanding of both.  

On-page Optimization

SEO involves a wide range of techniques, but each fits into one of two categories: On-page and off-page optimization.  The difference is simple: if it’s happening on your website, it’s in the on-page optimization category.  If it isn’t, it’s off-page optimization.

Keyword Research

A keyword is the phrase you type into Google (or any search engine) when you search for something on the internet.  Whatever product or service your company is trying to sell, thousands of people are already searching for it on the internet every day.  The first step of any SEO work is to determine what you would like users to find on your website, while step two is understanding how they’re searching for it so that you can ensure they can easily find it.  

Keyword research provides insights such as how many potential customers are looking for similar, but distinct keywords like “cycling shop” rather than “bicycle shop” and even reveals information on search trends, telling you whether online demand for something is rising or declining.  All this information helps an SEO expert fine-tune your website and the content featured on it to catch as many potential customers as possible while avoiding attracting users who aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

A good SEO provider will work with you to research the best keyword list for your company, taking into account your existing marketing strategy while using their tools and knowledge to make new recommendations that can dramatically boost your success.

Content Optimization

Content optimization is the creation of engaging, high-quality content that targets the keywords you’ve chosen in a natural way.  “Natural” is actually the most important part, because these days there is a lot of low-effort content out there (often AI-written) designed to cash in on fads and the sudden spike in search volumes that comes with them.  People are getting tired of it and any good marketer wants to stand out from the crowd, not disappear into it.  Google will even penalize your website if your content blatantly crams in as many keywords as possible! (It’s called keyword stuffing).

An SEO content specialist can make content recommendations backed up by data that can be acted on by companies with an in-house creative team, or go one step further and create that bespoke content themselves.  The important thing to remember is that even though content optimization is a more creative part of SEO, if it’s done correctly, it’s all based on hard data.  That means your content specialist can make precise estimates about potential revenue from an individual piece of content, giving you even more decision-making power when planning your next marketing move.

Technical SEO & User Experience

All SEO is some combination of creative and technical skills—content optimization and technical SEO are just on the opposite ends of that spectrum.  While content optimization involves making sure your content is engaging to potential customers, technical SEO focuses on making sure your content is engaging to Google so that those potential customers can see it.  It also includes making sure your site’s user experience is the best that it can be, keeping both customers and search engines happy at the same time.

Technical SEO experts typically have a lot of experience in web development and are responsible for things like: optimizing your website architecture and XML sitemaps for search engines, using schema markup to help those search engines interpret your content, identifying errors and many more.  If that sounds like a lot of technobabble, that’s okay!  The main thing to know is that no one part of SEO is less important than others—your content might be fantastic, but it won’t matter if your technical SEO is sloppy or your user experience feels like a chore.

Off-page optimization and Local SEO

On-page optimization is the foundation of all SEO work, but off-page optimization is important too!  It tends to be used at a later stage as it’s more effective at boosting the already-increased traffic from your on-page work than it is at helping a new, low-ranked site start to gain traction.

Link Building and guest posting

Link building is the process of increasing your website’s authority (how reputable Google thinks your site is) by getting other reputable sites to link to yours, showing that you’re in good company.  

Natural backlinks and reputable paid backlinks (such as top 10 lists, guest posting or sponsored content) are great ways to show that your website is generating real buzz.   But be wary!  A good SEO provider is crucial here, as cheap or shady providers can actually sabotage your site’s reputation, knowingly or not, by buying links from disreputable sites.  

Social media can contribute indirectly to your SEO effectiveness, but since many platforms don’t allow links, it tends to be less immediately effective than other types of link building.  Of course, while it may not be a key component of SEO, its importance to your overall marketing strategy shouldn’t be underestimated.

Why is local SEO so important?

Do you know what percentage of all Google searches are local?  According to Forbes, that number is 46%!  Local SEO is always important, and for some types of businesses it can even be life-or-death.  Convenience = conversions and anecdotally, I can’t tell you the number of times a company has lost my business because they can’t be bothered to update their Google My Business listing. 

A lot of local SEO failures come from missing fairly basic steps like this, but while the floor for local SEO is very low, the ceiling is also much higher than you might think.  Skilled local SEO providers can use the added layer of information involved in local SEO to bring the rest of your SEO efforts and other marketing activities into laser-sharp focus, targeting individual areas of your city with fine-tuned tactics.  In major cities like Toronto, insights from SEO data combined with locally-savvy targeted marketing can be incredibly powerful.  

Monitoring and analytics

One of SEO’s greatest strengths is that it is data-driven, even more so than most marketing.  Your SEO provider should be able to provide you with a wide range of SEO and Google Analytics data that can have a wide range of applications for your business.  For starters, you’ll be able to easily see the ROI on your seo spending, but you’ll also be able to use the data to do things like: make your other marketing efforts more efficient, communicate your growth more effectively both internally and externally, or accurately gauge public interest in new products.  SEO is a numbers game, so use those numbers!  The more you do, the more they work for you.

The Short Version

Find good keywords, choose the right ones, build your site and its content to target them as effectively as possible, and then use off-page optimization to boost your numbers further.  Keep a close eye on your data and adjust accordingly.  Rinse and repeat.  Doing good SEO can be complicated, but managing it doesn’t have to be.  You know your vision for your company and a good SEO provider can marry that vision to data-driven SEO strategies that get the results you want and even boost your other marketing efforts at the same time.  

And you’d better make sure your website is ready, because you’re about to have a lot more guests!

References

“60 SEO Statistics For 2024”  Forbes.com, 28 Nov. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/software/seo-statistics/

Matt Winnett

Head of Marketing

The Bear Cloud Studios
Honesty  Policy

Some of our articles are written using the assistance of generative AI. At Bear Cloud Studios, we make a commitment to always inform you of the use of AI, and to never allow AI-generated content to be published without being verified and edited by us. We stand by everything we publish, whether or not we use AI to help us write it.

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